On Teaching Them To Soar

It’s Friday morning, my day off, and I’m sitting outside at Rembrandt’s, one of my favorite spots in Chattanooga.  The temperature has finally dropped below 90, the birds are singing and a breeze is gently blowing.  The coffee is hot and it’s a great time to reflect on things flowing through my mind.

You can see the dad just above my screen.
You can see the dad just above my screen.

As I sit here, there is conversation going on all around me.  Most of it I don’t hear, or at least don’t comprehend, but there is one family sitting at one of the tables closest to me that I can’t help but notice.  It’s a middle-aged couple sitting with a young man having coffee together.

After a couple of minutes, it becomes clear the young man is preparing to begin college and the parents are preparing to say goodbye.  I don’t know where they are from, but it’s clear they don’t live here.  There is a sense of excitement in the conversation, especially as the young man is talking about this new chapter in life, but overshadowing that are clearly mixed emotions lingering softly over the table.  It’s something that I’m beginning to instinctively pick up on.  Perhaps that’s why I can’t pull my attention away from them.

As the mother gets up to go inside, it’s time for Dad to encourage his son to “call your mother at least every Sunday. She needs to know that you’re thinking about her.”  I find it interesting that he only said call your mother because a few minutes later when the boy also went inside for one reason or another, I could have sworn I saw the glimmer of a tear in his eyes.  Unmistakably, there was pain on his face.

It’s hard to deal with…children growing up and moving through stage after stage of life.  It seems as though we don’t have time to adjust to one that they’re already moving into the next, one series of painful joys after another.

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Look snazzy for picture day.

Maybe I’m thinking so much about this because I’m moving through yet another with Jacob.  For the last two days, I’ve ridden to his new school with him…in his own car…driving.  Wow, how could this little boy already be at this stage of life!  Somewhere along the line I blinked and found he is not so little anymore.  As he, himself, pointed out yesterday morning with a smile as he tied his shoes on the steps getting ready to leave for the first time in his own car: “Wow, Dad.  It doesn’t seem that long ago that you were teaching me how to tie my shoes.”  Now, I’m teaching him how to drive on his own.

I can’t even write this without feeling the lump in my throat.  With every passing day, I’m experiencing the series of heart-aches I know my own parents went through, usually without my ever being in tune with enough to make it easier for them.  Heart-ache that never really goes away.  How could it?  Your kids are always your kids.

So, it’s the mist of mixed emotions gently floating above that table that I identify with.  It’s painful to think of your kids growing up so fast, but it’s so amazingly gratifying to observe…and maybe even play a small part in…the development of their wings.  I’m so grateful to God for giving me two wonderful, talented and loving boys and the privilege to pour my life into and do all I can, through His power, to instruct them and nurture them, to correct them and train them in learning how to fly.

Boys Will Can’t Be Boys

As the father of two active boys, I need to remind myself regularly of the truth that is found in the following video.

Boys are not like girls and it’s past time we stop treating them in the same way with the same expectations. Boys tend to be more active, sillier and LOUDER.  That’s not abnormal and attempts to medicate away or stifle normal boyish behavior is incredibly detrimental to our kids.  Yes, I understand and agree there are circumstances in which medication is appropriate, but I’m certain not nearly as often as it is used.  Age and maturity will usually take care of most of those problems in due time.

Maybe, like me, you’ve fallen into the trap of placing unrealistic expectations on your boys from time-to-time.  I believe we need to re-think how we’re treating our boys and how we can let them be boys while still maintaining reasonable expectations for their general behavior (and we must be honest that we sometimes fail miserably at the latter, as well).

Our goal for our boys is that they grow up to be strong, godly gentlemen.  It is impossible for that to happen if I do not allow them to run a lot, climb trees, explore, wrestle, fall (repeatedly), make noise and make mistakes, all the while teaching them what they did wrong and how to avoid the same results again without crushing their spirit because they made them in the first place!  I have failed at that more than once, which has given me the opportunity to show them what repentance looks like.  By now they should have a thorough understanding of that concept!

Boys aren’t girls.

They mature slower and learn differently.  My neighbor, who is an elementary school teacher, told me just last week that modern-day schools aren’t designed for the learning styles of boys.  They tend to be most conducive to girls.  When I asked why, she stated almost the exact same things that I heard in this video. She said they don’t allow enough time for kids to play and exert pent-up energy, they expect quiet all the time (which is nearly impossible when the former is not provided for) and punish them when they can’t.  I’m starting to understand this as my youngest bundle of talkative energy does much better after he’s unloaded a couple thousand kilowatts.  Most of the time, he doesn’t get that opportunity at school.

Will the situation change?

I don’t know, but let’s start the conversation with each other and with our teaching professionals and see.  I agree with Ms. Sommers that something needs to change in our expectations and practices in teaching children and unless we are prepared to address it, we’ll continue to see mal-adjusted young men failing to reach their God-given potential because we failed to help them do so in a way in which they understand.  We (and their teachers!) need to learn to “speak their language.”  When we do, I think we’ll start seeing little, immature boys becoming young, mature men, ready to meet the challenges of life with confidence and intelligence.  If that happens, we will all benefit…but perhaps, especially, our little girls!

Feel free to share your reaction to the video or your own story and thoughts on raising healthy boys.

Video: The Calling of Parenthood

Sunday, I dealt with very touchy issues related to parenting at The Gathering. These included the challenges of parenting and the pain that comes from the inability to have children, along with the dangers of engaging in extraordinary means of impregnation, such as IVF.

My goal was to deal with these issues from a biblical, rather than an emotional perspective. Below is the video of that message. The length of the video is because we included child dedication and special prayer for various groups within the sermon time. I hope it’s a blessing and encouragement to you. Feel free to leave feedback or questions.

The Gathering Chattanooga 05-12-13 – Sermon from The Gathering on Vimeo.

Milestones

Everybody knows “how time flies.” It’s the inevitable part of life and, the older you get, the faster it goes. On the eve of my 45th birthday, I’m struck again with that fact. Yes, time does fly and it does, indeed, go faster every single year.

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I was reflecting on this yesterday while Jacob was getting his braces put on. Afterward, as we were at Steak n Shake drinking the first of many milkshakes in his future, I pointed out to him how that was one of those milestones. He thought about it for half a second and gave a cursory shrug of the shoulders. No big deal right now. Oh, how that will change.

To me, Jacob getting braces was a big deal (and not just because of the big price tag). It was a big deal because it was just another little punch to the gut that my boy is growing up. Of course, there are many of you who have not only crossed this milestone but many more that I will, by God’s grace, cross as well with both of my children, but none of them are easy and all are mixed with incredible joy.

Time goes fast, but never so fast that the moments can’t be enjoyed. Though they pass in an instant, God’s grace gives us the ability to thoroughly enjoy them if we focus on them, give them the time and attention that we deserve and are fully present in the moments. Make sure you are investing in the moments that count. If you do, they will be the vivid memories that define a life well-lived, giving you years of enjoyment as you reflect back on all that God has done and will build a legacy for those who follow you to build their own lives upon and enjoy their own milestones.

They’re Not YOUR Kids

MelissaHarrisPerryNot sure if you saw this or not, but a recent commercial on MSNBC has one of its hosts claiming that we have to get past the notion that our kids are actually “our” kids.  Instead, they belong to the community.

I don’t disagree with her basic idea of the importance of looking after each other and helping take care of each other, including our children.  Certainly, it’s what we do in the Church and in our communities.  At The Gathering, our children are “our” children to the degree that we love them all and will do whatever we can to help them, but we never claim that they are our kids to the degree that we usurp the authority and responsibility from the actual parents.  We come alongside them to support them and encourage them.  This host takes this idea to an alarming extreme, advocating a very dangerous ideology.

Too many people are already having kids and turning to the government to provide  for them because they cannot do so themselves.  Some to the sad degree that they continue to have children because they can get more money through welfare programs without taking personal responsibility.  Claims such as this one will only embolden and empower parents to forego their responsibility for their children and encourage government to do what it was never intended to do.

This is a very blatant move to solidify the United States as a pure welfare state, but to a shocking degree.  Though there are increasing assaults on the family as it has historically been understood, this is one I didn’t see coming.

Watch the video yourself and, if you have reaction, let me hear it in the comments below.

[HT: Denny Burk]

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